8 essential elements for a healthy heart | Way of life

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and around the world. Studies conducted over the past two decades indicate that more than 80% of all cardiovascular events are preventable through healthy lifestyle and risk factor management.

To help Americans measure their cardiovascular health and make meaningful lifestyle changes, the American Heart Association has introduced Life’s Essential 8, a checklist that explains eight habits and health metrics that affect heart health and brain and general well-being.

The checklist incorporates insights gained from more than 2,400 scientific papers on cardiovascular health published since its initial launch as Life’s Simple 7 over a decade ago. It has been expanded to apply to anyone aged 2 and over and now includes sleep as the eighth element of cardiovascular health, reflecting findings that healthy sleep is essential for optimal heart and brain health.

“The idea of ​​optimal cardiovascular health is important because it gives people positive goals to achieve at any stage of life,” said Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, MD, Sc.M., EAHA , president of the American Heart Association and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. “We felt the time was right for a comprehensive review of the latest research to refine existing measures and consider any new measures that add value to the assessment of everyone’s cardiovascular health.”

Start making positive changes to improve your heart and brain health by following these eight essential steps:

Eat betterThe checklist offers a simple questionnaire to assess your eating habits. A heart-healthy diet includes a high intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes; whole grains and fat-free and low-fat dairy products; lean protein; and low intake of sodium, red and processed meats, and sugary foods and beverages. Eat whole foods and rely on healthy, non-tropical oils (like olive and canola) for cooking.

be activeFor most adults, the target level of moderate physical activity (like walking) is 150 minutes or more per week or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity physical activity. Children 6 and up need an hour or more of play and structured activity a day.

Quitting tobacco and nicotineNicotine skyrockets your heart rate and blood pressure while carbon monoxide and tobacco starve your heart, brain and arteries of oxygen. There are approximately 4,000 chemical components found in cigarettes; at least 250 of them are harmful to health.

Reducing your health risk means eliminating exposure to any form of nicotine, including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and vaping devices, as well as limiting your exposure to second-hand smoke.

Get enough sleepA good night’s sleep is vital for cardiovascular health.

Measured by the average number of hours of sleep per night, the optimal level is 7-9 hours per day for adults. Ideal daily sleep ranges for children are 10 to 16 hours per 24 hours for children 5 and under; 9-12 a.m. for 6-12 year olds; and 8-10 a.m. for 13-18 year olds.

Maintain a healthy body weightAlthough the body mass index (BMI) measurement is not a perfect measurement, it is easily calculated and widely available; therefore, BMI remains a reasonable indicator for assessing weight categories that may lead to health problems. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is associated with the highest levels of cardiovascular health.

Manage cholesterol levelsNon-HDL (“bad”) cholesterol, rather than total cholesterol, is a reasonable predictor of cardiovascular risk. Non-HDL cholesterol can be measured without fasting, which means it can be assessed at any time of the day and reliably calculated.

Manage blood sugarWhen there is not enough insulin or the body does not use insulin efficiently, blood sugar builds up in the blood. Hemoglobin A1c readings measure your long-term blood sugar control. A normal A1c is less than 5.7%; between 5.7% and 6.4% indicates pre-diabetes.

Understanding Blood Pressure ReadingsAn optimal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg while hypertension is defined as a systolic pressure of 130-139 mm Hg (the top number in a reading) or a diastolic pressure of 80-89 mm Hg (number bottom).

About Margaret Shaw

Check Also

BACK TO SCHOOL: Using e-cigarettes at school can help discipline

The impact of e-cigarettes on our schools In recent months, great steps have been taken …